How I came to cook in French – The Denver Post

By Melissa Clark, The New York Times

I can’t really speak French, but I cook in French. For years, I studied conjugations and the passé simple, practiced pronouncing yaourt and grenouille, but try as I might I just couldn’t seem to master it beyond the essentials like “deux pains au chocolat, s’il vous plaît.”

In the kitchen, however, I am fluent. The fistfuls of garlic and thyme, the pebbly feel of gray sel marin de Guérande between my fingers, and the lushness of an emulsifying sauce are now so ingrained, I can cook in French without thinking. The ethereal creaminess of a soufflé, the anchovy funk of a pissaladière and the caramelized depth of boeuf Bourguignon are as deeply part of me as the bagels and lox we ate in Brooklyn every Sunday.

That merging of classic French cuisine and the food I grew up eating in Brooklyn is the foundation of how I approach cooking. To me, the cuisines are not two distinct things, but rather seamlessly intertwined into a glorious whole, because I learned about them at the same time.

Yes, we waited in line for Di Fara’s pizza, Lundy’s clams, and chicken feet and tripe at our favorite dim sum palace. And we also spent countless weekends fussing over Julia Child’s terrines and Jacques Pépin’s coq au vin, which my mother might slather on leftover challah, and my dad might spike with soy sauce (sorry, Jacques). It wasn’t irreverence so much as an intense culinary curiosity, a playful exploration of the delicious. All of these influences are so essential to the way I think about food that they’re the touchstones of every recipe I create.